11 Wadis in Oman To Give You That Perfect Desert Feel!
"Wadi" is the Arabic and Hebrew term for a valley, commonly used in North Africa and the Middle East. These wadis are mostly dry, though they fill with water during the monsoons. Oman has a large number of wadis in its desert terrain, many of which are popular trekking sites. Others have crystal-clear pools, making them fantastic locations for picnics. Despite their differing terrains, they all have beautiful views and offer unique experiences for the Oman tourist.
Here are some of the best wadis to discover in the Sultanate of Oman:
1. Wadi Bani Khalid
This is one of Oman's most popular wadis. The northern section of the wadi is a leisure and picnic area with palm trees, pools and cafes. The southern section is perfect for trekking and cave exploring. The swimming areas are fairly deep at almost 29 feet with little fish that nibble as you enter. The tall rock faces surrounding the pool are a popular spot for adventurous individuals hoping to dive in. This wadi has a picturesque setting and is a fairly commercial area with lifeguards and restaurants that offer buffet meals.
2. Wadi Shab
Also called Wadi Ash Shab, this wadi is known for its submerged caves and fascinating biodiversity. While exploring the wadi, you have an amazing view of the Arabian Gulf on one side and beautiful red mountains on the other. Some of the deeper areas of the wadis pools are only accessible by boat. In fact, these pools are so deep that this wadi has hosted the World Cliff Diving Championships in the past. While reaching the wadi, keep an eye out for the Bimmah Sink Hole which is a 40m drop into pristine pools of water.
3. Wadi Al Abriyeen
Located in the Al Sharqiyah region, this wadi remains relatively untouched. There are few signs leading to it, so it's important to keep an eye out for off-road sign boards. The wadi is home to villages on each side of its banks, the residents of which are welcoming of tourists. They encourage visitors because of the local tribeswomen's textile industry from which you can buy skilfully stitched Omani garments. The wadi is blessed with flora such as mango trees, banana trees, and lemon trees that make a lovely sight.
4. Wadi Darbat
This wadi is one of the most visited wadis in the Dhofar region of southern Oman. It has generally windy weather which is a great change from Oman's generally hot climate. In the monsoon months, the wadi turns green with beautiful highlands and plains growing a variety of crops. In the months from July to September, the cliffs house waterfalls that are up to 30m high. Wadi Darbat is an amazing place to take in a glimpse of nature at its best.
5. Wadi Al Rawdah
The historical Wadi Al Rawdah is located in the Musdanam Governorate in northern Oman, specifically near its capital of Khasab. It's a site for fossils, primitive drawings and ruins from Oman's past. Aside from this, it is home to a number of wild flowers and herbs that blossom during the monsoon months. There's also Al Rawdah Fort that you can visit close by with stone steps leading up to an amazing view of the village and its surrounding greenery. There's a curator who conducts tours of the fort as well.
6. Wadi Al Hawqayn
This is another wadi that houses a fort nearby. The recently renovated Rustaq Fort includes an audio tour and lovely hot springs to rest your feet. The wadi itself gets very crowded on weekends, especially as people visit from around the country to see the wadi's year-round waterfall. The waters are an amazing azure color. It's a lovely place to have a picnic and spend an afternoon with friends.
7. Wadi Dhum
Located in the Al Dhahirah region, reaching this wadi requires from off-roading. A 4x4 car is required to travel along the wadi's rock surfaces. In the parts of Wadi Dhum that have smooth rock surfaces, it's important to tread carefully. In fact, it's advisable to wear smart shoes with good grip to avoid any falls. There are ropes that are provided to pull you through Wadi Dhum's deep water pools in the monsoons, but in the summer months, the wadi becomes fairly dry and barren.
8. Wadi Mistal
Wadi Mistal can be found on the Nakhal- Ar Rustaq Road that leads towards the Wukan Village. The wadi is home to this beautiful settlement which has only a few families residing inside. The village has lush green gardens where they grow apricots, grapes, pomegrates and dates. Their gardens are watered through the Wukan village's intricate irrigation system that you can observe while walking around. The locals are very hospitable, although it's best to stick to the demarcated paths to avoid walking into their private residences. The wadi opens into the Ghubrah Bowl that is a gravelly plain stretching as far as the eye can see.
9. Wadi Bani Awf
Found in the South Batinah Governorate, Wadi Bani Awf has high-stretching cliffs, large bounders, and small waterfalls. Unlike other wadis, it has fairly cool weather because the sun is blocked by the high cliffs. You'll require private transport to reach here as there is no public transport available to this wadi. It covers a large area with lots of villages. It features the Snake Canyon which is a long, winding rock canyon with interesting rock formations. Visiting Wadi Bani Awf should be avoided during rains as it gets flooded very easily.
10. Wadi Al Khoud
This is one of the largest wadis in the country. It is located near old Khoudh village in Wilayat Al Seeb which is less than half an hour away from Muscat. The wadi gets its name from the Arabic word 'Khoudh' which means 'wade' because of the large pools of water that collect here during the heavy rains which the villagers would wade through. The wadi has hot springs like Ain Al Hab and Al Khoudh Castle nearby that is more than 300 years old. This isn't a trekking wadi, rather a place to sit down and enjoy the cool breeze amidst green palm trees.
11. Wadi Al Abyad
This wadi can be found in Nakhal in South Al Batinah region. It earns its name from the carbonate rocks in the region that once made the water pools appear white in colour, although the water looks a cool blue in colour now. It is an hour's drive away from Muscat. There's a pleasant trekking path with plenty of flora, making it a picturesque for an afternoon with friends and family. It has pools that aren't too deep, meaning that parents need not worry about their children diving in after a hot afternoon in the sun. There's Nakhal Fort close by that can be visited as well.
Although this is recommended while travelling anywhere in Oman, it's especially important to carry water and plenty of food while visiting the wadis. Only a few of them have cafes and restaurants to buy supplies. In addition, these areas have little to no shade, so it's important to wear light clothes to keep cool. The nights, however, can get chilly, so it's a good idea to pack a jacket. As some wadis have pools where you can swim, carry a waterproof case or a plastic bag to store important items like phones, watches and the like.
Most wadis feature dangerous terrain, and they require special 4x4 cars to manoeuvre on them. Please don't attempt to navigate through these paths in your own cars. Also, keep in mind that these areas are prone to flash floods in the monsoon months. In such scenarios, do follow the advice of local authorities.
Some wadis are dry with amazing trekking paths overlooking large canyons while others have deep pools to beat the Oman heat. Visiting the wadis is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Sultanate of Oman and you definitely shouldn't miss out. Hire a car, take some friends, and explore the wonderful valleys of the country!